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rome, john allen of cnn. he covers the vatican for the network and for the "national catholic reporter." we thank you all three for being with us. john allen, i'm going to stay with you. how much of a surprise was this? >> judy, i think this was a near total shock. just to tell you how crazy it was, i was actually scheduled to have lunch with a senior vatican official, a guy who works just down the hall from the papal apartment. as of early this morning even he didn't know it was coming. as your set-up piece indicated the shock isn't the content of the decision -- benedict had hinted fairly openly that he was receptive to the idea of a pope resigning, that actually under some circumstances a pope would have an obligation to resign if he's not able to continue to perform his duties. but certainly the timing of it, i think, fell out of a clear blew sky just like the rain we're experiencing in rome here tonight. >> woodruff: monsignor hilgartner, what about the timing of this? what does it say that he made this decision especially in contrast to what his predecessor pope john paul had bee
is the host of cnn's reliable sources. thanks for being here. we're talking about the president hosting a google hangout on google-plus. this seems designed initially to talk to relatives and far away places. how did it become a political tool? what does the president really accomplish here? >> i think the president is accomplishing reaching around the press corps to actually talk to voters and voters who may not answer or ask questions that the regular press would. >> like any technology, it might start out with me chatting with you but companies and politicians now trying to harness this because it plugs them into a demographic that may not watch a lot of television, that may not read newspapers, for example, but relishes the chance even though do people get that chance to ask a question directly to the president of the united states. >> you have to understand that this has only been around for 18 months. the first time that the president did this, he received 135,000 questions. so that would mean that it was a popular way of reaching out. was something that was really welcomed. >> re
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